Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Hotel Rwanda
As noted in Friday's post, a group of 7 of us got together for dinner at a new Ethiopian restaurant a few blocks from my neighborhood prior to attending a screening of "Hotel Rwanda".

The food was good, the place was packed (and we were a bit cramped as a large party since they do not take reservations), and service, while pleasant, was evolutionarily slow. Normally not an issue on a Saturday evening, but we had a movie to catch, and the line outside the theatre snaked for about a block when we arrived where we met up with 3 other friends.

There's not a lot I can say about this movie that hasn't been said in the reviews other than you really, really, owe it to yourself to see it. You can toss all the adjectives at it that you want: moving, important, gripping, heart-breaking, touching, horrifying, etc..., but in the end, it's an experience, not a movie. Don Cheadle portrays an amazing human being, and does it beautifully with all the strength and dignity it requires.

The thing that gets to me most about war movies - in particular, those that portray genocide - is the brutalizing effect it has on children. The orphans created and left behind from this horror dwarf the numbers from the tsunami. An entire generation was destroyed.

As one review noted: "...although "Hotel Rwanda" has a grim backdrop, it's also a stunning testimony to the power of just one individual. The film defines how, using cunning and courage, a person can change the course of history -- and stand up to the inhumanity in our midst.

Take tissues - this movie will break your heart and make you think.
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:56 PM  
5 Editorial Opinions:
  • At January 16, 2005, Blogger BaLtiMoRe_RoLL said…

    Sorry I couldn't make it. I did get your email, but as you noticed from reading my blog, I've been pretty busy lately and all that was on my mind was finding a chance to sleep. 12 hours of sleep later, I think I've recovered. Thanks for the invite though. It sounds like it was really interesting, and I've been hearing good things about this movie. Plus, I would definitely have been up for Ethiopian food. Maybe next time!

  • At January 16, 2005, Blogger Maktaaq said…

    I am going to see it this week. Rather scary...

  • At January 16, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Maktaaq: Hi!! You're very welcome - it's a great site. Very nice to see your here in Baltimore. Check through some other postings - hope you see something you like.

    "Hotel Rwanda" isn't scary (well, in some places it might have been, look for the fingernail marks in Jwer's thigh - he was sitting next to me) just powerful and moving.

    I live just down the street from Goblin's mummy and was/am terrific friends with the couple they bought their house from. Therefor, the house came with built-in friends.

  • At January 18, 2005, Blogger Mark said…

    Thanks all for a fairly yummpy meal, good company, and my first pass at Ethiopian beer (halfway between Red Stripe and Kirin, I'd say).

    Since Jeni and I opted out of post-movie drinks, I don't know if the conversation turned to "what we can do," as alluded to in your promo poster on the blog, but in any case I thought I'd follow up on that front. Much of this may not be new to most of you, but I'm tossing it out there, just in case. And please accept my appologies for what is bound to be a rather lumpy presentation; I'm just back from what turned out to be a 14-hour workday and therefore a little slack in my energy for self editing. But anyway . . . .

    "The air of corruption that clouds the United Nations these days cannot simply be fanned away by forcing the resignation of Kofi annan as Secretary General...." Weekly Standard? National Review? Nope. It's liberal Philip Gourevitch in the Dec 13 New Yorker, addressing the genecide du jour in the Sudan; for those keeping score, he's the author of "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families," the definitive history of the Rwandan genocide.

    Bear with me; my intent isn't to demonize the UN, as there's plenty of blame to go around. But we'll get back to that. Let's see what else Gourevitch has to say. "In the mid-nineties, when he was head of peacekeeping, he presided over catastrophically failed missions in Bosnia and Rwanda, where he ignored detailed warnings of genoice, then watched them come true.... Those world leaders who later hailed him as a moral exemplar at best ignored history, at worst regarded it as a kind of credential; since Annan was a compromised figure, they did not have to fear his censure." Nice.

    Has he learned anything in the interim? Gourevitch again: "Last week [early December, 2004], Annan released a set of proposals, put forward by a commission of senior international statesman, for a systematic overhaul of the UN bureaucracy and an updating of international law," specifically focusing on the prospect of an expanded Security Council. Sounds ambitious, right? "Yet nothing in the proposals promises to alter the chronic disfunctions of the system.... The UN's withdrawl from Rwanda during the slaughter was not due to insufficient laws but to a complete lack of will among member states to deal with it. No law can change that."

    Our President's pure contempt (and sorry, folks; he is "out president;" at least this time around, he was duly elected, so spare us the conspiracy theories and let's get on with it) for the East 42nd Street crowd has forced too many lefties into a one-dimensional defense of the UN. As someone who spent hundreds of hours there -- in the General Assembly, the library, the cafe, this and that backroom meeting -- in the mid-eighties, I have a huge respect for the courage and good-heartedness of the UNHCR folks and others like them, and huge contempt for the shearly political creatures of the General Assembly that make Tom Delay and Strom Thurmond look like paragons of political virtue. My feeling towards the UN is much like that towards urban public schools; I believe in them totally in principal, and I want to do so much more to make them better, but if I imagine they're anything vaguely appproaching functional, I'm living in a dreamworld. I just wish that more liberals would acknowledge this and have the cajones to dis the UN from the Left.

    But ok, soapbox spiel concluded for the moment. Let's get back to the Sudan. From the increasingly centrist (read conservative, if you insist) Washington Post, from last summer, editorializing on "Darfur, the western Sudanese province where Arab militiamen backed by an Arab government are exterminating people with black skin." The real money line: "It is as though in the wake of the West's failures to prevent Rwanda's genocide, the gods of history are asking, okay, if we give you a second cance and months of warning, will you do better?" But wait, you say! Wasn't there just a peace agreement signed? Did not the Islamic central government make ammends with this or that rebel faction? Well, sort of. An agreement was indeed signed between representatives of the north and south, rather ignoring the western province of Darfur. From this week's BBC: "The world has shown a 'callous disregard' for the 70,000 people killed in Sudan's Darfur conflict,a human rights lobby group says. The New York-based Human Rights Watch singles out UN Security Council veto holders china and Russia for blocking tougher action against Sudan. It says they are more concerned about protecting oil contracts and arms sales to Khartoum than saving lives" Interesting, a lack-of-war, if you will, for oil. (and while I assume most of you have heard of this organization, if you haven't, you should know that they are not in the least some kind of conservative front; their report's _other_ headline issue was Abu Ghraib.)

    "Human Rights Watch says that China owns a 40% share in Sudan's main oil producing field, while Russia is thought to be the main arms supplier to the Sudan government." Though I'm drinking French Pinot even as I type, I can't help mentioning that a little French concern called TotalFinaElf also holds huge reserves in southern Sudan, which brings us back to the Washington Post's editorial....

    "The United States has drafted a resolution, but council members such as China, Pakistan and Brazil value the principle of sovereignty more highly than the human purpose that sovereignty is meant to serve: a stable international order that allows people to live in peace....Other council members, notably France, do not oppose a resolution but show little enthusiasm for it either."

    And the French position is crucial because, as WaPo notes, "France is well placed to lead such an effort: It has a military base inChad, Sudan's western neighbor, and another in Djibouti [see also! Sheik Yerbouti, one of the better albums by native metro Baltimorean Frank Zappa! please forgive the non-sequiter!] to the east.... So far [as of last summer], France has offered only to help pay for one contract aircraft; it has offered no helicopters, even though the United Nations relief team appealed for six in March and so far has received none.... France has donated just over $6 million to Darfur, according to the United Nations, whereas the United States has given $130 million and committed an additional $170 million."

    Ok, so what's my point here really? Fair question. I suppose it's multifaceted.

    First and foremost, it is to say that it's all well and good that we fancy ourselves concerned and well informed and culturally literate -- love that don Cheadle, pass the popcorn, pity I can't have a couple White Russians at Club Charles after the show, eh? But seeing that movie is utterly meaningless if we don't do something, anything, to try to stop what is happening right now, this very moment, in the western Sudan. Is that calling Sarbanes or Mikulski? Maybe so. Is that sending a bitchy email to the French PM? Maybe so. Is that participating in this week's protests at the UN over its inaction on the Darfur issue? Maybe so. But for goodness sake, it should be something.

    Second, I suppose it's to say, "look: it's nice to be liberal, it's nice to love European cities, European booze, European godlessness, and EuroVision [ok, wait! we have to draw the line SOMEwhere!]." But if you counter Dubyah's one-dimensional Eurobashing with your own one-dimensional Europhilia (and UN-happiness), you're succombing to his game, fighting fire with fire and all that. It plays great over drinks, but it's adolescent bullshit, basically, at the end of the day.

    I know, I know; I'm being narcissistic and melodramatic; that's what blogs are for, even the Comments sections. And the Pinot is certainly making this chilly noir a lot warmer. But let me close with a few more excerpts on Sudan, circa now....

    From the Sudan Tribune, January 13th: "The sponsors of the north-south peace process hope that the political opening it creates will help pacify Darfur.... But the conflict in Daruf has developed way beyond its origins.... Probably 300,000 people have died as a result of this violence and the related murder-by-starvation.... It was diplomatic pressure that pushed Sudan to negotiate with southerners, and diplomatic pressure can succeed again. But this will hapen only if the government is made to see that international recognition and international investment...are not goinjg to come its way without a resolution in Darfur." China, Russia, France, the UN -- are you listening?

    From Reuters, also Jan 13: " 'Large quantities of arms have been carried in to Darfur in defiance of the Security Council resolution taken in July,' [UN Sec Genl Special Rep for Sudan Jan] Pronk said. 'December saw a build up of arms, attacks of positions, including air attacks, raids on small towns and villages, increased banditry [and] more looting.' .... He warned that Sudanese governement forces might be tempted to think that the conclusion of the north-south peace accord would provide a brief window of immunity from international criticism of their actions in Darfur."

    And this, from an American periodical: "the United States has been generous in giving humanitarian assistance to Darfur survivors. But by feeding them -- not rescuing the dying and endangered -- the victims are only being served a last meal. And a dangerous precident is being set: Though America will not tolerate terrorism against the United States, it seems more than willing to allow regimes to terrorise their own people."

    The Nation? The Progressive? Dissent? Um, actually, The Weekly Standard.

    So please (and I'm writing this to myself as much as to anyone else) -- if it meant anything to see that movie, do something -- whatever you see fit -- about Darfur, because Darfur is now, it is happening, people are dying by the thousands, and there is a chance for leverage. What to do I leave to you.

    Beyond that, if you dig the UN, or Europe, like I do, give enough of a shit not to love their every move. It's the least you can do.

    Thankfully for y'all, I am -- as they say o'er UK-way, running on LOW BAT. G'night!

  • At January 18, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    ummm, Jwer - you now have SERIOUS competition in the blog coup department. Thanks Mark.

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